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  • Interview With Author Robert Rossi

    By Anthony Parente

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    Robert Rossi is author of the "Blood Heart" trilogy. I had the opporutnity to interview Robert and learn more about his Italian heritage and what motivated him to write the "Blood Heart" trilogy.

    Where were you born and raised?
    I was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland.

    What part of Italy are your parents from?
    My parents are from Barga in the Province of Lucca, Italy.

    Have you had a chance to go to Italy and visit the town your family was from?
    I have visited Barga almost every year. My parents retired back to Barga.

    What was life like growing up in an Italian family?
    Our home was classically Italian. We followed all the Italian traditions and ate exclusively Italian food. My parents spoke in Italian to each other and in a mixture of Italian English to us as children. My mother's parents also lived close by in Glasgow as did many emigrant families from Barga and surrounding districts. Most Italians maintained very close links to the village of their ancestors' birth.

    When you are not writing what are some hobbies that you enjoy doing?
    I enjoy researching Family History, cooking, watching Soccer and playing Golf.

    Are there any traditions that were passed down by your parents that you continue today?
    Sunday lunch and get together with the family and enjoyment of home made food.

    What got you started into writing?
    While doing some aimless family research on the internet I stumbled across the heroics of a young man, Dennis Donnini VC, whom I discovered was a distant cousin.

    Who/What has been your biggest inspiration when it comes to writing?
    The biggest inspiration is being able to tell the fascinating story of the massive Italian emigration exodus from Barga and Garfagnana in Tuscany between 1880 and 1910 to various parts of the globe.
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    You have authored two books in the Blood Heart trilogy: "Italian Blood British Heart" and "Jewish Blood Italian Heart." Before we get into both of those novels have you started writing the third book in the trilogy? Do you have a title for this book, and do you know when we can expect this to be published?
    The third part of the trilogy is "ITALIAN BLOOD AMERICAN HEART" and will be published in 2023. This concerns the fictionalised experiences of certain members of my family to the USA. It will be in similar format to the previous two novels, Part 1 before World War 2 and Part 2 during World War 2.

    In the first book of the Blood Heart trilogy "Italian Blood British Heart" was inspired by a true story of a forgotten hero. How did you find out about this forgotten hero? Were you doing research on your family history and came across this by chance? Or was this a story that a family member told you about and it inspired you to learn more about this person?
    I stumbled across the story of Dennis Donnini and his family purely by accident. I was emotionally touched by the heroics of Dennis' family. Dennis himself, as a young 4ft 6in 19 years old lad was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the most prestigious and highest award for bravery, during World War 2. Dennis and siblings served in the British Army. One brother survived the evacuation at Dunkirk but to die from his injuries three years later whilst another brother spent the war in a Nazi concentration camp in Poland. Two sisters served in the women’s ATS. In total five children in the family served in the British forces in one capacity or other, whilst father Alfredo, still an Italian national, was being in interned on the Isle of Man, narrowly avoiding being shipped to Canada on the Arandora Star which was torpedoed by the Nazis killing nearly 500 Italian lives amongst many other lives lost. The final irony was that father Alfredo was initially denied entry to Buckingham Palace to collect his dead son’s VC medal on the grounds he was still an enemy alien. The intervention of a young Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth, who also served in the ATS, stepped in to save the day.

    Was it difficult doing research for this book?
    Research was easy. The book was written from the heart. The Donnini family story was fictionalized and interwoven with the emigration stories and tales handed down to me by parents and grandparents.

    The main character in this book is Fredo. Was that the first name of the forgotten hero?
    Fredo, real name Alfredo, was the head of this remarkable family, father of Dennis, the young hero.

    Was there any part of this novel that was extremely easy for you to write?
    Part 1, pre World War 2, was based almost entirely what existed in my imagination from knowledge and other information sources I have previously gathered in my conscious memory before I ever thought of or had any intention of putting anything into print. Part 2, the events during World War 2 required some factual research.

    The second book of the Blood Heart trilogy, "Jewish Blood Italian Heart," was inspired by real people and true events. Did you find out about these events and people in doing research for your first book?
    Jewish Blood Italian Heart is a fictionalized account of my grandfather’s adventures to the UK, USA and to Australia supposedly with an intention of obtaining a British passport as had been recounted to me as a family story. Although there is no Jewish blood in my family tree, I added a Jewish element in order to add some more substance to the novel, prior to and during World War 2.

    What challenges do you face when writing a book that takes your readers through historical periods that many have never experienced?
    The challenge was in clearly attempting to make the reader feel the sensation of reality and authenticity. General feedback of Italian emigrants’ descendants would indicate the challenge was successful. Many readers appeared to be able to relive many events of their own childhood.

    What message or inspiration do you hope people will get from reading your books?
    I hope readers will understand more about the trials and tribulations of the great Italian diaspora, why Italians felt the need to leave their homeland in the first place and some of the challenges they were faced with in attempting to make a living in new countries and completely different environments. I also confess to a political element to the intention. Whereas today, immigrants are rewarded with numerous preferential opportunities of aid and support, our Italian ancestors, whether to the UK, to the USA or elsewhere in Europe were faced with varying degrees of resistance and prejudice. Nevertheless to their massive credit, Italians persevered, continued to work hard in difficult circumstances and in the majority of cases created largely successful families which willingly and successfully integrated into new cultures.

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